Maya Fleischmann

Actor Constance Wu (known for her lauded roles in “Fresh Off the Boat,” Crazy Rich Asians and Hustlers) narrates her thoughtful and revealing memoir in essays with an endearing blend of passion and playfulness. 

Throughout her career, Wu has learned that life is a series of scenes that shape us; we don’t shape the scenes. She shares memories of people and events that have influenced who she is, including humorous and heartwarming tales of her parents’ assimilation into American culture, humbling mistakes she’s made in love and work, an unexpectedly touching goodbye to her black Toyota Prius and insightful commentary on technology, American culture and Asian diaspora.

Evocative, provocative and always heartfelt, Making a Scene (8 hours) is worthy of an encore. It’s a great match for fans of Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H Mart.

Evocative, provocative and always heartfelt, Constance Wu’s Making a Scene is worthy of an encore.

Astrophysicist Moiya McTier gives a stellar performance of her book The Milky Way: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy (6.5 hours), a thoroughly entertaining and mind-expanding exploration of our galaxy as told in the first-person voice of the Milky Way itself. McTier’s unique portrayal is refreshing, engaging and funny as she imbues the galaxy with a sassy, grandiose tone—rightly so, given its galactic grandness. 

McTier’s love affair with the universe began when she was a child, and this early appreciation of celestial aesthetics developed into a lifelong devotion to the logical data-driven science of astronomy. McTier’s down-to-earth style makes this science approachable, giving listeners the opportunity to experience a cognitive shift—to form their own romance with the galaxy.

The Milky Way is an out-of-this-world listening experience for anyone who has ever looked up at the sky with wonder.

Moiya McTier

How did an ancient galaxy pen its own autobiography? The Milky Way explains, as dictated to Dr. McTier.

Moiya McTier’s down-to-earth style makes science approachable, giving listeners the opportunity to form their own romance with the Milky Way.

Voice actors Edoardo Ballerini and Julia Whelan deliver exquisite performances in the audiobook for The Angel of Rome and Other Stories (8 hours), Jess Walter’s gratifying collection of vignettes about human connection and the twists of faith and fate.

Ballerini is masterful and controlled in his portrayal of ordinary people who experience something extraordinary. In “Fran’s Friend Has Cancer,” his expert pacing balances humor and darkness as Max bickers with his wife and realizes that an eavesdropper is recording their conversation. In the title story, Ballerini brings out 21-year-old Jack’s reluctance to study Latin in Rome—until the young man stumbles upon a higher cause, the actor Angelina Amadio.

Whelan’s crisp narration takes on humorous undertones in “Famous Actor” to portray an astute woman observing the absurdities of a self-absorbed actor. And in “Mr. Voice,” Whelan highlights the vulnerabilities of a girl raised by a stepfather who’s known for his popular radio personality, but whose big heart matters most at the end of the day.

Ballerini and Whelan infuse these engaging stories with warmth and surprise, making The Angel of Rome an ideal audiobook for readers who enjoyed Flights by Olga Tokarczuk and Exhalation by Ted Chiang.

Read our starred review of the print edition.

Edoardo Ballerini and Julia Whelan infuse Jess Walter's engaging, heartwarming stories with warmth and surprise.

Sulari Gentill’s novel The Woman in the Library (9 hours) is an intriguing mystery-within-a-mystery, performed with a measured sense of menace by voice actor Katherine Littrell.

Winifred Kincaid, an Australian on a scholarship, is at the Boston Public Library when she hears a woman’s scream. Winifred’s life becomes inextricably tied to three other strangers who are present for the discovery of a body. But this crime is actually the plot of a book being written by Hannah, an Australian who exchanges letters with Leo, an American writer who critiques her work and points out cultural idiosyncrasies.

Littrell combines restraint and a modulated pitch to convey Hannah’s characters’ growing uncertainty and fear as they suspect one another of the woman’s murder. Similarly, Littrell’s portrayal of Hannah brings out her anxiety and suspicion about Leo, who is becoming obsessed with Hannah’s novel and starts sending her crime scene photos to inspire her. Many listeners will appreciate Littrell’s accents, which highlight the cultural differences between America and Australia.

Many listeners of The Woman in the Library will appreciate Katherine Littrell's accents, which highlight the cultural differences between America and Australia.

Tracy Flick, Tom Perrotta’s protagonist from his darkly humorous novel Election, returns in Tracy Flick Can’t Win (6 hours), an engrossing story of retrospection, regret and self-fulfillment. Now the vice principal at a suburban New Jersey high school, Tracy is vying for the principal gig, which means navigating school politics and the sophomoric behavior of the adults around her.

Award-winning actor Lucy Liu’s sensitive performance of Tracy captures every moment of confidence and frustration. Her controlled tones highlight the loneliness, self-doubt and disappointment that Tracy feels after sidelining her political aspirations to take care of her mother and raise her daughter. “Better Call Saul” actor Dennis Boutsikaris’ entertaining performance of retiring principal Jack Weede’s misguided masculine mindset is sprinkled with guilt and shame. Other superb cast members (Jeremy Bobb, Ramona Young, Ali Andre Ali and Pete Simonelli) are equally impressive, conveying the nuances of strained personal and professional relationships while delivering quietly compelling reactions to the story’s climatic ending.

Read our review of the print edition of Tracy Flick Can’t Win.

Actor Lucy Liu’s sensitive performance of Tracy Flick captures every moment of confidence and frustration in Tom Perrotta's engrossing novel of retrospection, regret and self-fulfillment.

The bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet returns with another spellbinding tale of memory’s power to bind us together. At once heartbreaking and uplifting, The Many Daughters of Afong Moy connects women who are generations and worlds apart. 

Dorothy Moy lives in Seattle in 2045. A depressive and anxious 31-year-old poet, Dorothy experiences flashbacks, but not of her own experiences; she sees people and places that are unfamiliar to her. Then Dorothy’s 5-year-old daughter, Annabel, begins to exhibit peculiar behavior, describing visions she’s seen and talking about a boy looking for her. Hoping to spare her daughter a life of perpetual disquiet, Dorothy turns to epigenetics, the study of how behavior and trauma can be passed down through generations. She begins experimental therapy to discover the origins of her mysterious memories.

Ford’s writing is seductive as he intertwines the lives of Dorothy, Annabel and their ancestors within a rich swirl of history and imagination. We meet Afong, inspired by the first Chinese woman to immigrate to the U.S. in 1834, who tours the country as a spectacle for theatergoers; Lai King Moy, a young girl living through the bubonic plague outbreak in early 1900s San Francisco; Faye Moy, a nurse in her 50s who’s serving with the Flying Tigers, a combat air squadron, to fight against the Japanese during World War II; Zoe Moy, a student at an unconventional boarding school in 1927 England; and Greta Moy, a single woman in 2014 who develops a dating app just for women. 

As Ford unravels the intriguing stories behind Dorothy’s recollections, he leads readers through her process of reconciling inherited memory with her present reality. The unfurling of ancestry and the passage of time are masterfully controlled and poetic, sumptuous and stark. Each time period is as expansive as the next, and within these eras, Ford plumbs the different sociocultural views and the changing roles and expectations of women, all while highlighting his strong characterization. 

Exploring the bonds that transcend physical space, The Many Daughters of Afong Moy is an enthralling, centuries-spanning tale, a masterful saga that’s perfect for fans of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain.

Jamie Ford’s writing is seductive as he intertwines the lives of Dorothy, Annabel and their ancestors within a rich swirl of history and imagination.

In the audiobook recording of The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor—the Truth and the Turmoil (18 hours), English author and journalist Tina Brown gives an energetic and engrossing performance as she shares juicy details about the strife and scandal that have surrounded the British monarchy for decades. Even before Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles’ sordid phone conversation, before Princess Diana won the hearts of people around the world, the royal family had long been the subject of rumors and shocking news, such as the abdication of King Edward VIII following his love affair with American divorc’e Wallis Simpson. As Brown explains, after the public’s obsession with Diana, the royal family sought to ensure that no family member would ever garner such superstar status again. And then came Meghan Markle.

In this scintillating listening experience, Brown tempers her ironic, scathing observations with straightforward, reverent tones. Anglophiles will easily succumb to this fascinating book, which is ideal for readers who enjoyed Diana: Her True Story—in Her Own Words by Andrew Morton and Meghan and Harry: The Real Story by Lady Colin Campbell.

English author and journalist Tina Brown gives an energetic and engrossing performance as she shares juicy details about the strife and scandal that has surrounded the British monarchy for decades.

Conner Habib, host of the podcast “Against Everyone With Conner Habib,” brings his curiosity about psychology and philosophy to fiction with Hawk Mountain, his mesmerizing debut novel about the intricacies of the human psyche and the effect of destructive behavior on love.

Thirty-three-year-old Todd Nasca is sitting on a New England beach while his son, Anthony, plays nearby. A man approaches the boy. Todd recognizes him as Jack Gates, whom he hasn’t seen in 15 years. Back then, Jack tormented Todd. Now seemingly amiable, Jack inserts himself into Todd’s life, bonding with Anthony, confronting Todd’s estranged ex-wife and making himself welcome in Todd’s home, while Todd drowns in memories and trauma, self-doubt and confusion.

The narrative’s uneasy edginess is supplemented by flashbacks to Todd and Jack’s adolescence, including a transformative field trip to Hawk Mountain in their senior year of high school. Additional perspectives from other characters build backstory and ramp up the precariousness of Todd’s relationships and sense of reality. Tension spirals as Habib leads the reader to wonder what the truth really is, who is telling it and who is believing it. 

Habib’s unique examination of his flawed and fascinating characters as the victims and sources of violence is both disturbing and insightful. His exploration of the tangled web of human desire, emotions and abuse, and how it becomes a legacy passed down through generations, is gritty and chilling. With haunting prose and deeply atmospheric descriptions, Hawk Mountain is a disturbing descent into the convulsions of the human mind and heart.

With haunting prose and deeply atmospheric descriptions, Conner Habib’s Hawk Mountain is a disturbing descent into the convulsions of the human mind and heart.

Author Mohsin Hamid’s haunting performance of his powerful 2007 novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, leaves listeners with much to ponder about their own visceral reactions to the story’s balancing act between peace and paranoia, pensiveness and fear.

Changez is the charming, mannered yet disquieting Pakistani narrator of this first-person story. He’s dining with an unnamed American at a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan, and over the course of the evening, Changez acknowledges and sympathizes with the American’s discomfort at being in a foreign setting—and at having Changez for an uninvited dinner guest.

Changez tells the American about how he left Lahore for the promises of the United States, graduated from Princeton University, landed a job at a highly respected firm and began to feel like he belonged to his adopted country. But after 9/11, fueled by xenophobic rhetoric and misunderstanding, many Americans began to question Changez’s identity and loyalty.

Hamid’s narration marries a sense of calm with the possibility of ill will that begins to crescendo over the course of the novel. Is Changez a threat to the American? By wondering this, are we, the listener, responding in an unfairly distrustful and shameful manner? What is the danger, and how are we participating in it? Hamid’s enlightening new recording highlights the lasting relevance of this provocative novel.

Read our interview with Mohsin Hamid on his “one-man play.”

Mohsin Hamid’s enlightening new recording of The Reluctant Fundamentalist highlights the lasting relevance of his provocative 2007 novel.

Bestselling author Rebecca Serle’s stirring novel One Italian Summer (6.5 hours) follows a young woman’s journey of discovery, acceptance and forgiveness. The audiobook is read by “Gilmore Girls” actor Lauren Graham, who brings sincere tenderness to the heartwarming tale.

Katy is shattered after the death of her mother and best friend, Carol, and Graham captures Katy’s numbness and grief through deliberate pacing and a voice that often breaks with emotion. Feeling lost in life and in her marriage, Katy decides to take a pilgrimage of sorts, traveling to Italy’s Amalfi Coast on the trip that her mother had planned to take for years. Katy is shocked when, upon arriving in beautiful Positano, she meets a vibrant woman who seems to be a younger version of Carol. In her moving performance, Graham evokes Katy’s conflicted emotions surrounding her mother and her marriage, drawing readers into the process of rediscovering her most important relationships.

Read our review of the print edition of ‘One Italian Summer.’

Actor Lauren Graham brings sincere tenderness to the audiobook edition of Rebecca Serle’s heartwarming novel One Italian Summer.

The doctor is in the house. With her direct and diverting bedside manner, Dr. Madi Sinha (The White Coat Diaries) gets straight to her thought-provoking points on women and work in her second novel, At Least You Have Your Health, a compassionate portrait of a young doctor trying to make a difference in the lives of those around her.

Thirty-six-year-old Maya Rao juggles her roles as a devoted wife, tireless mother of three children and dedicated junior doctor in Philadelphia General Hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department. She endures the hospital administration’s regulations and bureaucracy, an especially difficult task after the rejection of her proposal for a program to help women better understand their bodies. But when the hospital threatens to suspend Maya following a negative interaction with the chief financial officer’s wife, Maya decides to accept an unusual job as a concierge gynecologist at a boutique women’s medical practice. But more money and a flexible schedule with an exclusive clientele may not be the solution to Maya’s desire to truly help others . . . or herself.

A few of the many enjoyable moments of Sinha’s novel include a precocious 4-year-old who uses no euphemisms for body parts, car wash chaos, a crystal monument misplaced in a client’s nether regions and various other medical emergencies. Amid scenes capable of eliciting tears of joy, angst or frustration, Sinha incorporates questions of work-life balance, racial prejudice, gender inequality, cultural differences and female empowerment. She tackles each topic with a blend of sensitivity and straightforwardness that will leave readers entertained and more enlightened about female anatomy and the business side of medicine.

With a cheer-worthy protagonist, At Least You Have Your Health is a delicious dose of heartwarming characters and good humor.

Madi Sinha’s direct and diverting bedside manner gets straight to her thought-provoking points on women and work in her second novel.

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